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PARLIAMENT ANALYSIS

Mapisa-Nqakula faces no confidence vote, files interdict against arrest amid corruption claims furore

Mapisa-Nqakula faces no confidence vote, files interdict against arrest amid corruption claims furore
Illustrative image: Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula at Park Hotel on 4 February, 2022 in Sandton, South Africa. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

As Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, on ‘special leave’ as National Assembly speaker, approached the courts to interdict any possible arrest in connection with corruption dating back to her defence minister days, the DA tabled a motion of no confidence in her.

The political drama over the head of the legislative sphere of state continued to whirl on Friday, even after Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula stepped aside from her responsibilities as National Assembly speaker following the investigation of corruption claims dating back to her defence ministry days.

That the National Assembly speaker had stepped aside and not resigned led the DA to file the motion of no confidence — the second Mapisa-Nqakula faces in a year. In March 2023 she survived the no-confidence motion the EFF brought over her “misconduct” in evicting EFF MPs from the State of the Nation Address; the DA and United Democratic Movement (UDM) abstained from the vote that went 234 against the motion and 42 for. The reason for abstaining was not confidence in Mapisa-Nqakula’s conduct, but that the EFF motion was inadequate and defective.

Read more in Daily Maverick: National Assembly Speaker breezes through no-confidence motion as EFF stands alone

On Friday, DA Chief Whip Siviwe Gwarube said, “This special leave is nothing more than a cop-out”, and the party’s no-confidence motion in Mapisa-Nqakula must be debated and decided before the National Assembly rises on 28 March.

“The rules of Parliament do not make provision for ‘special leave’ taken by a member by a unilateral decision. A special leave is only granted by a full sitting of the House, through a motion…”

Mapisa-Nqakula must resign, said Gwarube: “Anything less than that will be a mockery of Parliament and more importantly, South Africa”.

A parliamentary motion for special leave is highly unusual. It was granted for illness for then ANC MP Winnie Madikizela-Mandela when she had missed Parliament from 14 March 2017 and on 20 March 2018. Rule 36 requires a special motion if a parliamentarian is absent for more than 15 days, new parents exempted.

Read more in Daily Maverick: MPs forced to ‘step aside’ enter uncharted legal territory

Stepping aside is an instrument the governing ANC holds up as part of its fight against corruption. Mapisa-Nqakula is one of the few senior ANC members to step aside. The 2024 ANC election lists feature several candidates’ names over State Capture in the Zondo commission report; Mapisa-Nqakula is not on these ANC election lists, signalling her retirement from public life with the 29 May poll.

“(M)y position and status as speaker of the National Assembly of Parliament and member of the ruling ANC with the so-called ‘step aside rule’ carries the further humiliation of publicity and public speculation as well as the limitation of my office and vocation,” Mapisa-Nqakula said late on Human Rights Day. Her statement came two days after the Investigative Directorate (ID) raided her Johannesburg home in connection with claims she had solicited millions of rands in bribes between 2017 and 2019 while defence minister.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Speaker Mapisa-Nqakula on ‘special leave’ after corruption claims speculation

When politicians, particularly those of the governing ANC, are involved in corruption-related probes, speculation often reaches fever pitch. Add to this the jealousies between law enforcement agencies, leaks can become the tools of factional and professional jockeying. And misunderstandings can happen.

On Friday that seemed to be about a so-called court appearance by Mapisa-Nqakula — even though her lawyers maintained she was not arrested nor faced arrest or a court appearance, as Daily Maverick had confirmed. When announcing her stepping aside on Thursday evening, Mapisa-Nqakula also said no communication about an arrest had yet been received by her or her lawyers.

By 11am Parliament issued a statement to dismiss rumours of arrest:

“We can confirm that the speaker and her family are at home and that she has had no interaction with the NPA (National Prosecuting Authority) ID since the search and seizure operation at her house on Tuesday, the 19th of March 2024. We can also confirm that this morning (Friday) the speaker has filed papers in court challenging the manner in which the search and seizure warrant was obtained and the operation itself.”

Daily Maverick broke the news of the court challenge on Friday morning citing National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi, Police Minister Bheki Cele and three investigators.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Mapisa-Nqakula files court papers to interdict possible arrest

“I have devoted the majority of my adult life to the pursuit of the rule of law and constitutional democracy, and the demise of the security state in South Africa. The machinery of the criminal justice system and the state’s prerogative of prosecution was abused and used as a political tool then. I verily fear that this practice has once again reared its ugly head and, if not stopped, carries the real risk of further fraying the constitutional fabric of our young democracy,” said Mapisa-Nqakula in her affidavit in the interdict and discovery application.

Calling for access to all the state’s documentation, from the docket to witness statements and investigators’ pocketbooks for the case CAS 176/2024, she styled the application as a bid “to protect my constitutional rights in respect inter alia to freedom, and dignity, including my rights to good name and reputation and self-esteem as well as to pursue a vocation of my choosing”.

The investigation had unfolded irregularly and with gaps “…indicative of an abuse of process, at an opportunistic time before the national elections, in order to say public opinion, trigger the ANC’s ‘step aside rule’ by charging me and humiliating me in the media….”

Whether what is essentially a political argument will carry in the Pretoria high court remains to be seen. Obtaining an order for full disclosure of the state’s case would be highly unusual.

Mapisa-Nqakula throughout has pledged her cooperation with law enforcement agencies, as she has done also on Tuesday following the ID raid on her Johannesburg home.

It now is in the court of the NPA and ID whether to oppose Mapisa-Nqakula’s interdict application. If yes, they have until Tuesday to inform her lawyers and file their responding affidavits by 2 April.

NPA national spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga did not immediately respond on Friday morning regarding Mapisa-Nqakula’s interdict and discovery application. He was approached via telephone, messages and email.

The Presidency said the processes must now unfold. In Tuesday’s presidential Q&A session in the House, President Cyril Ramaphosa did not reply to DA leader John Steenhuisen’s question if he supported Mapisa-Nqakula’s resignation. The ANC closed ranks, fobbing off the opposition question as “gossip” and “a cheap shot”. The presiding officer Cedric Frolick ruled Steenhuisen’s question was a new one and the president did not have to answer.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Speaker Mapisa-Nqakula’s home raided; Ramaphosa sidesteps questions on State Capture inaction

The ANC late on Tuesday issued a statement noting Mapisa-Nqakula’s special leave: “The ANC will enforce its integrity and step aside policies based on the facts as they arise”.

But Mapisa-Nqakula stepping aside remains a political pickle for the governing party.

It raises questions, again, why the ANC is not ensuring others have stepped aside despite being named in State Capture and corruption. The argument no one could be compelled in the absence of charges or prosecutions — that was the upshot of Ramaphosa’s replies in the House on Tuesday — increasingly holds no water in the public discourse.

But the political pickle also directly touches the governing ANC’s role in the legislative sphere of state — if Parliament rises without the finalisation of the ethics complaint against Mapisa-Nqakula, or the DA’s no-confidence motion not being debated, then the governing ANC is set to be accused of protecting its deployed leaders.

Ahead of the 2024 elections in less than 70 days, it’s a political predicament of note. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Geoff Coles says:

    The stench of corruption lingers on within the ANC hierarchy

  • Joe Irwin says:

    There’s no point in tabling a motion of no confidence in this ANC cadre. It has no chance of success.

  • G. Strauss says:

    Nothing screams ‘I am guilty!’ louder than going to court to get an injunction against your own imminent arrest. Wake up, South Africans. The cANCer has been suckling on all four teats for the past 30 years and left you to scramble for the spilled milk.

  • Rae Earl says:

    Yep, No Confidence votes are regarded by the ANC hierarchy as attacks on the honesty and integrity of their members. Which is exactly what they are so, laager mentality kicks in to protect them and crooks remain in place so they can continue looting. Jacob Zuma was subject to some 9 such votes and he received 100% support from the ANC and every one failed. And look how wrong that support was and how our economy was allowed to be shattered by a mega crook and his helpers.

  • Bill Gild says:

    I have little confidence that the election will take place on the scheduled day, and if it does, I have even less confidence that it will be free and fair.
    The ANC will deploy every resource at its disposal to avoid an outcome that would reflect its (well deserved) fall from grace at the hands of the electorate.

    • Johan Buys says:

      Bill : I share your concern that a reason will be found to delay the election. My bet for excuse is a foreign hacker group hijacked the IEC system and of course we can’t hold free and fair elections while foreign nations cast doubt on the system.

      Putin can arrange that in 24h

    • paul Volker says:

      I don’t agree Bill. It’s in the ANC’s interests to get this election done as soon as possible. They can’t hold the party or country together for much longer. They need to get this out of the way.

      • Russ C says:

        As an armchair observer, l tend to agree with your view. But who knows what could happen between now and 29 May. Each day brings yet another layer to this saga….

      • Geoff Coles says:

        I suspect you are right but it won’t go easy

      • Alan Watkins says:

        I agree. The ANC is on a fast accelerating downward phase, with support dropping in line. Or put another way, they are well into the second part of the phase of slowly at first and then suddenly. Every week that the ANC waits, more dirt comes to the surface, more incompetence becomes obvious and there are more water electricity sewerage disasters, every week that they wait their probable % support drops further.

  • drew barrimore says:

    The ANC has ensure over the years that parliament does not exist other than as a nail-painting venue for cadres, so no, no chance of a vote against the speaker from them

  • Agf Agf says:

    What kind of legal system have we got where someone can go to court to seek an injunction to prevent themselves from being arrested? Another strange anomaly is Zuma going to court to try and get an order that the man prosecuting him is not going to treat him fairly. Surely that is the whole point of prosecutors? They are TRYING their level best to prosecute you. It’s up to your lawyers to defend you.

  • Johan Buys says:

    ‘ I have devoted the majority of my adult life to the pursuit of the rule of law’

    This issue concerns that minority of time you painted outside the lines.

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